When in the queue at the entrance I heard a lady say, « Merse! » with a heavy accent instead of the french-sounding « Merci! », I told myself, no doubt … I’m in Verviers. And if I am here, it is because it’s the acoustic guitar evening of the Guitar Festival in Verviers. A festival that Jacques Stotzem initiated some years ago with Francis Geron, the charismatic boss of the legendary Spirit of 66.
The schedule of the evening is well-known. Modelled on the « all star guitar nights » made in US, it brings together guitarists, with different musical worlds. The concept is incredibly simple: the musicians share a stage on which they spend the evening, alternating solos, duets, or trios.
Tonight, the artists on stage are (from left to right):
Dave Goodman – an American-German singer and guitar player with his atmospheres of bluegrass-blues tunes mixed in Celtic influences, and a powerful groove.
Jacques Stotzem – the European, born in Verviers with his powerful yet melodic rock fingerpicking.
Huang Chia-Wei – native of Indonesia, living in China and flagship of the classy Asian melodic elegance.
Jacques Stotzem who has toured Europe, the US and Asia, is the link between the other two guitarists. He met them on tour, and invited them to play in Belgium.
After the short introduction speech of the director of the cultural centre, which stumbled on the pronunciation of Huang Chia-Wei’s name (I hope he’ll never have to comment on a football match between let’s say Serbia and Albania), Jacques Stotzem begins the evening by his tribute song to the radio station Classic21 and Marc Ysaye. With the support of this radio, his albums Catch the Spirit I and II, were able to embrace a well deserved success in Belgium.
Then comes Dave Goodman, playing and singing, cap jauntily on the head. Beautiful stage presence with a powerful groove and devilishly quick bluegrass-sounding solos. At times he reminds me of the groove of Leo Kottke.
Jacques then introduces his friend Huang Chia-Wei, the organizer of his concert tours in Asia, CEO of a factory guitars (Naga guitars) and incidentaly able to summon two spare tires for a car deep in the Chinese mountains with a simple phone call.
Tireless, unable to stay at the same place between appointments, he is the author of the impatient interjection « move-move » made famous since it has inspired a tune to Jacques. Yet musically, Chia-Wei Huang is smooth, with a delicate touch and a succession of perfect notes, with falsely simple melodies.
The pleasure of playing and the complicity of these three musicians is a delight to see and hear.
Alternating between three musical continents the evening goes on. Playing a little guitar myself, I see how the playing techniques and amplification equipment used by every musician vary, always at the service of what suits everyone’s sound and style. Further proof that there is no universal truth for the guitar, everyone carries his own truth in terms of playing technique and equipment.
I grant myself a beer during the intermission, saluting Jacques, his wife Gaby, and other familiar faces: guitar students, masterclass attendants or guitarists. I bought the CD of Huang Chia-Wei, who will probably not often come back in the region. I am to broke to also buy the live CD of Dave Goodman. Too bad, next time maybe. Since he lives in Germany, it will be easier to buy it later on.
The second part of the evening is dedicated to duos born from the meeting of these great musicians. These are among my favourite musical moments.
I love how everyone’s style blends into a common harmony and how ideas are poured into each solo.
I deliberately took only small video clips of each moment, because these are musical moments to see (… and it hurts my arms to hold my smartphone like that). The shaky video taken at arm’s length with a smartphone don’t do justice to the emotion of the moment. There are too many of these videos on the Internet and not enough people at concerts. If I share, guilty myself, it’s in hope that it will encourage you to go to concerts yourself. Hey, it happened next door!
Come see live music, get out of your couch, turn off the TV! Come to see master craftsmen carve the note out of wood and strings right before your eyes!
While some musicians give you the urge to listen to music, others achieve to give you the desire to play. These three are among those rare gems!
Note: this article is a translation and repost of the concert review I wrote in french and published earlier. Special thanks to BriBri for proofreading my bad english.